The tomato is truly an American foodstuff, with origins that can be traced back to the early Aztecs. It wasn’t until sixteenth-century explorers brought it back to Europe that it became an important food in Italy. In fact, it took a while to catch hold in other parts of the continent simply because many people, especially the upper class, thought it to be poisonous.
And how could anyone deem the ripe, beautiful, flavorful tomato dangerous?
The aristocratic class dined mostly with pewter flatware and plates, a high-lead utensil and vessel that when in contact with the ultra acidic tomato caused a reaction that could be harmful, and even fatal, when consumed. The Italians, who largely used wooden utensils when eating, had no problem growing, harvesting, and devouring the delicious vegetable (or fruit, depending on who you’re talking to), making it a mainstay in their rustic food culture.
Regardless, one of the great summer virtues of living in the High South is the climate that yields so many different, beautiful varieties of the tomato. The myriad farmers’ markets that dot the I-49 corridor are chock full of assortments that are as gloriously diverse in color as they are in flavor.
I’m growing four varietals this season (i.e., Golden Pear, Roma, Arkansas Traveler, and Grape) that have kept my fridge and pantry filled with delectable, nuanced marinara sauces, tapenades, capanota, and perhaps my favorite of all: pickled green tomatoes.
So, if you’re up for a museum quality geek-out session on the history, popularity of the tomato then make plans to attend our High South Moments culinary event on July 17 at the museum. Chef William McCormick has devised a summer menu solely based on the beautiful, diverse nature of the tomato. Get your tickets here.
This post was created by Case Dighero, Edible Culture.